Brave – Review
“If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?”
Brave is the story of a young, fiery redheaded princess eager to be free and live life how she wants to live it, without the pressures of crowns and nobility weighing her down. Merida, our protagonist, spends her time riding her horse through the foresty reaches of Scotland, practicing her archery. Merida’s mother, a real lady-like and classy queen, wants her daughter to be more like her, proper and “perfect”. For Merida, that is too much to bear and she longs for the days when she gets to take time off from following etiquette and nobility protocol.
But everything changes when Merida’s mother decides that it is time for the three clans of the kingdom to come together and play games for Merida’s hand in marriage. This is a tradition that will further unify the kingdom. Each of the three clans must present their first born to play in a game that will determine who will marry the princess. But Merida has plans of her own. When she realizes that the only stipulations in becoming her betrothed are to be the first born and hitting an arrow with a target, she takes matters into her hands. This is where Merida’s journey truly begins as she rides out on a trail that leads her to cross paths with a witch who will forever change her fate. Unbeknownst to her, the witch has a bad reputation for casting spells that don’t work as well as they should.
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brave went from concept to big screen in 6 years time. Original director Brenda Chapman said the inspiration for her story was the relationship she had with her 7 year old daughter and much of Merida’s character is taken from her own daughter’s personality. All in all, Brave is a movie for the entire family. It’s a good light-hearted animated comedy/drama with deep life lessons for everyone in the family. Brave weaves a fantasy tale with mystery and superstition and captures your imagination with magic and entrancing visuals. Brave is truly the best that Pixar has to offer with not only its enthralling storyline but also with its beautiful on screen graphics.
Pixar has really done a 180 on the princess movie theme, taking the idea of “princess” to a whole new level. Gone are the days when beautiful girls go singing in the forest to the content of delighted little birds. No, Pixar has taken a bold step and, for the first time in any Pixar movie, has brought in a female to be the protagonist in one of their movies. And she is nothing like the Disney princesses our daughters and sisters (and myself) have enjoyed watching for the past couple of decades.
Merida is fiery. She is ambitious and headstrong and she has something that no other Disney princess has. Bravery and courage are two of the main attributes that dominate Merida’s personality. But the characteristic that sets her apart from the rest? The fact that she makes it a point that marriage/romance/a prince is not a climatic catalyst that will determine the rest of her life and how she should live it. In fact, Merida doesn’t need or want a man to take care of her. And she does an excellent job in convincing the audience that this is indeed so by catching her own food, making her own fire, taking on bears… etc. Merida is a girl who definitely does not fit the term “damsel in distress” in any way, shape or form. Spoiler Alert: There is no Prince Charming in this movie nor is there a “True Love’s First Kiss”.
That being said, I didn’t immediately love her. At the beginning of Brave, I wasn’t automatically attracted to her personality and in fact I felt as though she was a little annoying, whiny even. Her character grows on you but it grows on you fast and then you cannot get enough. The character of Merida is good-hearted, funny, earnest, a bit spoiled, caring, loving and independent. But in the end I felt as if I understood her and I knew where she was coming from. And that is what good writing and story-telling does. It makes the characters believable and I feel as though Brave really pulled that off. Merida really grows up in the 100 minutes that movie lasts.
The story of Brave consumed me. Pixar has created another dynamic tale and done it in such a way that almost makes it appear effortless. Not only does Pixar understand that great story telling is important but they have practically perfected the visuals they use to tell their stories. I was enamored with the visuals and could not turn my eyes away from Merida’s bouncy red curls. In a recent interview with Brave director Mark Andrews, he admitted to me that perfecting the strands of hair in the movie took years and even the development of a completely new set of software. That is a very expensive set of curls. But the detail shows especially in just one strand of hair. The animators of Brave and concept artists deserve a huge kudos for making this movie visually gorgeous and entertainingly fun to watch.
Merida is voiced by Kelly Macdonald. Brave was released on June 22, 2012.
*All photos credit to Disney Pixar